Chapter 30 - Aubree (Part 1)
Aubree never expected Jackson to regret the events that took place six years ago.
Hearing him apologize and seeing the remorse of his actions twisting the contours his face, rubbed her with shame.
Had she been wrong? The instigator of a mistake that he had to bury deep within so no one would find out? Had she been too drunk to realize his struggle and what she was doing to him?
She couldn’t look either Jackson or Stone in the eye as images from six years ago flickered in her mind from the moment she and the stranger, Craig, started making out on the lawn outside the house while the party continued on inside.
Jackson called out her name, but that didn’t deter her from the feel of Craig’s lips molding with hers and the sensations he was creating within her as his hand continued to fondle her breast while the other massaged her inner thigh.
What jarred her away from Craig was the sound of an animal growling.
Jackson called her name again as she looked around them for the dog, but saw none.
A hand grabbed her arm and pulled. She looked up into the cold, hard eyes of Jackson as his nostrils flared and his pupils dilated.
“What?” she demanded.
“It’s time to go,” he said. “I’m taking you home.”
“Wha-Why?” she protested as he yanked her to her feet.
She tried to pull away, but he was far stronger than her drunk ass.
If Craig did anything, she didn’t notice. The world was spinning around her as she stumbled around with a strong arm holding her upright.
"Aw, com’on, Jack,” she slurred. ”I was just having a lil’fun.”
“I told you, I had your back, Aubree. That guy was trouble.”
She huffed. “Why’s everyone tryna control me, huh? Why woncha let me play?”
“Brooke cares about you. She’d kill me if I let anything happen to you, and that guy was just going to use you and throw you away like a dirty towel.”
“Maybe I want dat, huh? Didcha ever think ’bout dat?” She waved her hand around. “I mean, no one ever lets me do anything on my own. Brooke, she-she’s always telling me don’t do dis or don’t do dat, and she’s always scaring away boys, like, how am I suppose’ta meet anyone?”
“She’s your best friend and cares about you,” he grumbled.
“Of course, but I’m eighteen and can make my own decisions.”
“You’re also drunk as a skunk, not in the best frame of mind, and an easy target.”
“And I feel great! I feel free! For once, I’m not afraid t’talk to guys I don’t know, and dance like no one’s watching. No judgment. No over-thinking. Just me and da music and anyone who will dance with me.”
“Maybe you attract the wrong guys.”
She laughed as he opened the door of a car and helped her into the seat.
It wasn’t a question, and that was what she found so funny. How would he know? Not all guys were bad. She knew that. Her father was awesome. Not a bad bone in his body. One of these days, she’d find a guy like him, have a family, and grow old together.
She looked for him throughout high school and didn’t find him. Next step was college and parties. Surely, one of these guys she met would be the one?
She was still laughing as he slammed the door shut and climbed in the driver’s side door a moment later.
“Why ya gotta kill my fun, Jack?” she asked, her laughter turning to little giggles.
As he turned on the ignition, she reached over and slid her hand up his thigh.
A sharp intake of breath hissed through his clenched teeth.
“Unless ya wanna take me t’bed instead?” she asked as giddiness swirled within.
That was it, wasn’t it? She thought she had him pegged. He watched her most of the night. Said he’d look out for her as Brooke’s friend, and now he was taking her home instead of that other guy. Jackson wanted to get in her pants.
She heard the leather on the steering wheel creak as his grip tightened, but her eyes were on his thigh as her hand slid up and there was no denying the hard-on he had under his jeans. Was that there before?
He pushed her hand away before he backed the car up and pulled out onto the road. “Not going to happen.”
“Why not? Brooke doesn’t have t’know.”
He rolled the windows down, making her hair whip around her head as the glow of the streetlights illuminated the hard lines in his face and his stiffened frame.
Damn, he was fine.
He was thicker built than that Craig guy with bigger muscles bulging out of his T-shirt. With his clenched jaw, his facial features were sharper, more prominently masculine. He was becoming more and more a man and coupled with the thin day-old stubble, she found him more attractive as the yellow light and shadows played across his face as he drove.
The drive was silent as her eyes continued to trace the various features of his face and body. Repeated glances at his crotch only confirmed that he was still aroused by her, and that in turn made her sweat and ache with a need she’d never felt so strongly before.
When he pulled up to her parents’ house, she asked him to help her to the front door in case she fell.
A growl rumbled in his throat before he threw open his door and got out to help her up the front steps. He had her purse with him—where she left it, she had no idea—and she swayed unsteadily as she dug through it for her keys.
Being so close to him, feeling his muscles flex against her, she felt even more dizzy and weak in the knees as he held her steady.
He towered over her, a little over six feet tall, and he had to bend down to help her, meaning he had to get closer to her body. So close that she could feel the heat rising off him. It drew her in and as she opened the door, she stumbled forward. He caught her as he growled under his breath.
“Help me to my room?” Her voice was a breathy whisper.
His Adam’s apple rose and fell. His face was hard to read in the shadows cast by the streetlights behind him.
He looked about to shake his head no, when she added, “No one’s home. If I fall and hurt myself, no one’s here t’help me.”
“Fine,” he grunted as she flicked the light switch on.
His eyes were nearly black, the pupils hardly receding with the flash of light. His muscles strained with effort as his nostrils flared.
She should have been scared, but the intensity that surrounded him only made her heart beat harder.
She liked the feel of his hands on her body. The way he supported and carried her as he helped her to her room.
A yellow glow from the streetlights outside illuminated her bedroom and filtered weakly through her open door and into the dark hallway.
Darkness was their silent companion. The keeper of secrets.
“I should go,” he said as soon as she reached out to steady herself against the doorframe.
Yes, you should, she thought as shadows played with her eyes. Building him up as a mysterious, sexy lover looking to uncover her deepest secrets and desires.
But I don’t want you to.
Leaning over her, he didn’t move an inch. His breath fanned against her hair and forehead with one hand under her arm.
“I should go,” he repeated, his voice a little gruffer this time.
“Then, why don’t you?”
Looking up, her face was less than an inch from his. His nose almost brushing hers. His lips so close she could almost taste them.
She struggled to fill her lungs. His masculine musk, untainted by alcohol, cigarettes, or weed, assailed her, bathing her in heat as her pulse raced. Clean, fresh, and woody.
He swallowed. “Will you be okay by yourself?”
“Good. Then there’s no reason for me to stay.”
He pulled away, but she grabbed his arm.
“Stay! I don’t wanna be alone.”
“No one will know. I won’t tell anyone.”
He looked back at her, his face half in shadow. Desire crashing with conflict.
In desperation, she made the move. Breaking down barriers. Reaching out. Grasping. Gasping. Lips on lips. Lips on skin. Skin on skin. Holding. Groaning. Thrusting. A dizzying climax that left her breathless with the bittersweet aching knowledge that this would be the end of the adventure and nothing more.
She fell asleep with her head against his chest and woke up alone.
Reality hit her hard. She didn’t regret a second of it, only that it could never be anything more than a memory.
Allowing the mental images to slip back into the dark recesses of her mind, she looked back at Jackson as he pressed his fingers gingerly to his nose and found no fresh blood.
“Do you hate me for what happened?” she asked.
He caught her gaze before looking away and leaning against the edge of the table. “No, and I don’t blame you. We were both at fault, but I shouldn’t have lost control. The greater fault is mine.”
She looked down at her hands.
But I’m the one who begged you to stay. I’m the one who reached out and wrapped my arms around your neck and pressed my lips to yours. I’m the one who fueled your fire instead of snuffing it out.
I was weak and lonely. I wanted to feel special to someone. Even if it was for just a moment. Even if it was just for my body.
She shook her head, unable to look up. “No. We are both equally at fault. And I’m sorry for the trouble I caused you.”
Peering up through her lashes, she saw him nod his head in acceptance.
Every action had a reaction.
Every mistake, an opportunity to learn from it.
Secrets came with lies, while the truth could be hard to bear.
She would bear it, and all the consequences—good and bad—that came with it.